According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune (“Loss of young adult members spurred changes to LDS wards,” 4/27/11, p. B1), 5,000 single Latter-day Saints between the ages of 18 to 30 who gathered at the LDS Church’s Conference Center were told by Apostle M. Russell Ballard that 147 student and Young Single Adult wards between North Salt Lake and 4500 South in Taylorsville are being dissolved.
In its place will be 121 new Young Single Adult wards. The reason for the change: too many Latter-day Saints in this age range are abandoning the faith. Redrawing the boundaries has been tried in other parts of Utah and, according to the article, helped retain the singles membership. In fact, Ballard begged those in attendance to use this new system to bring at least one other person back to the fold.
According to the article, “Ballard repeated LDS President Thomas S. Monson’s recent admonitions to young single Mormon men to stop ‘hanging out’ and start dating with an eye toward marriage.”
Listen carefully to the next paragraph: “‘We hope you’ve got the message: You have no option to bounce around,’ he said, referring to a common practice dubbed ward-hopping in which young Mormons shop around for congregations they like. ‘We know where you are. We’ve got our radar focused on you.’”
“We’ve got our radar focused on you”? Seriously? Certainly this admonishment cannot come from a general authority representing a church claiming to be Christian, could it? Correct me if I’m wrong—the followers of this blog are very perceptive—but this is nothing more than membership control. The goal: Push marriage on the young people (hardly a new tactic with the LDS leadership) so that they will settle down and become faithful little ward members, possibly evolving into future bishops and, according to Ballard, even apostles. Yet this control directive sounds like something out of Orwell’s 1984 than anything else. Can anyone say “cult”?
Criticizing these young people for “ward-hopping” and reestablishing the boundaries of the Young Single Adult wards sounds absolutely desperate. After all, could it be that single members were doing their best to find mates by looking outside of their own restricted boundaries? Is there anything wrong with this? I’m surprised Ballard didn’t suggest that the Church would now be setting up marriages as well. Of course, such a practice could take place only if the couple belonged to the same ward! Interward marriages are bad, bad, bad. How dare a member desire to draw outside the lines!
Of course, Ballard’s charge drew praise from the faithful. General LDS Relief Society President Julie Beck said, “These are wise, inspired decisions. This is the Lord’s way to bless you in your lives!”
Somehow, I imagine that not all 5,000 members at this meeting walked out whistling “We thank thee O God for a prophet.” If I were them, I’d start asking more questions and consider why this religion is having such a hard time keeping its young people engaged. Peel back the layers and see what stinketh.